December 30, 2022
I’ve been reading in Genesis during my times with the Lord. Chapter 32 contains a story that at one time perplexed me.
Previously, Jacob used deception to obtain his father’s first-born
blessing, which he stole from his brother Esau. Because Esau sought to
kill Jacob out of revenge, Jacob fled to Paddan-aram where he meets his
relative, Laban. Laban is also a conniver. So Laban and Jacob wrestle
with each other, both using their fleshly wits to deceive each other to
their own advantage. But after 20 years, Jacob decides to return home.
However, as he gets close to his homeland, Jacob receives word that his
brother Esau is coming out to meet him with 400 men. Jacob, fearing
for his life and the lives of his family, is distraught. So he sends
them ahead. Here’s what the text tells us in Genesis 32:22-32:
22 That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. 24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When
the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of
Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”
But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
27 The man asked him, “What is your name?”
“Jacob,” he answered.
the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because
you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”
29 Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.”
But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.
30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”
31 The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip. 32 Therefore
to this day the Israelites do not eat the tendon attached to the socket
of the hip, because the socket of Jacob’s hip was touched near the
first, this story puzzled me. How did this narrative pertain to the
overall story? And what about Jacob’s insistence that this man whom he
was wrestling bless him? Was this another self-centered action by
Jacob? If so, why does the man seemingly view Jacob’s insistence as a
positive act and therefore blesses him?
Up to this point in his life, Jacob used his fleshly wits and deception
to successfully achieve his own desires and goals. But now as he faces
the ominous prospect of being confronted by his brother, he knows that
there is a very high probability that Esau is coming for revenge. Jacob
is desperate and perhaps for the first time in his life, he knows he
cannot connive his way out of this perilous situation.
So when Jacob meets this man, Jacob knows that he is more than just a
man (see vv.29-30). Jacob realizes that unless he receives divine help,
he is in trouble. However, he also believes that if this heavenly
being blesses him, then he and his family can be delivered. In other
words, Jacob trusted that this heavenly being could bring him
salvation. What Jacob did not know, was this being was not just a
heavenly being, but it was God Himself. In fact, many believe that
Jacob’s encounter was none other than a pre-incarnate visitation of
Jesus Christ (see. v.30). So Jacob’s insistence for a blessing was not
an expression of self-centeredness, but rather a sincere, tenacious
faith for salvation. And for this reason, God in response, blessed
him. In essence, this was similar to Abraham’s response of faith,
trusting in God’s promise.
But God’s blessing not only required faith, but it also required a
breaking from self-reliance. Perhaps that is why God dislocated Jacob’s
hip. God wanted to give Jacob a continual reminder that if he was
going to experience the true blessings from God, it would not come as a
result of his deceit, conniving, and fleshly planning, but rather it
would only be achieved by grace through faith.
In the end, God did rescue Jacob from Esau. And in the end, Jacob
realized it was God who achieved his deliverance from Esau, not his own
fleshly wits and efforts. In fact, Jacob later exclaimed to Esau, “For
to see your face is like seeing the face of God, now that you have
received me favorably” (Genesis 33:10b).
And so it is with us. We are also saved by grace through faith. But in
addition, we continue to experience God’s blessings by grace through
steadfastly trusting in God and the promises of His Word. But it also
requires us turning from self-reliance in our brokenness and living by
So as we begin a new year, ask yourself—“Who am I trusting to meet my
needs? Who am I trusting as I make plans for this year and beyond? Am I
trusting in myself or have I learned the lesson of brokenness—broken in
my own self-reliance, but tenaciously steadfast in my trust in God’s
grace and promises?”
May you also wrestle with God by faith for His blessings this coming new year!